Curly, textured, natural hair — it’s bouncy, beautiful, and many people are born with it.
Genetically, curly hair forms a tight spiral or a springy, ribbon-like shape without you having to do anything to style it.
But the very same properties that give curls their structure can mean that people with curly hair need to take a little extra care with how they sleep at night to protect their lovely locks.
We explain why curly hair might need a different kind of TLC while you’re getting your beauty rest — and how you can get fuller, healthier curly hair while you sleep.
If you have curly hair, it’s best not to sleep directly on the hair follicles.
Crushing your hair with the weight of your head can leave curls looking matted and messy. Sleeping on your back can also create frizz and knots in your hair as you move your head from side to side during the night.
If you have curly hair, sleeping on your side or on your stomach is your best bet. As an added bonus, sleeping on your side has all sorts of other health benefits.
In addition to sleeping on your side or on your stomach, there are additional ways you can preserve your curls as you snooze.
1. Use a silk or satin pillowcase
If you’re of African or Hispanic heritage and have curly hair, your hair shaft varies in diameter according to the shape of your curls. That means that your hair shaft isn’t the same thickness all the way through, which can make strands more prone to breakage.
When you toss and turn your head during the night, it can put stress on your hair follicle and make breakage even more likely.
To ward off frizz and breakage, change the surface your curls rest on while you sleep. Cotton pillowcases (even the high thread-count ones) absorb your hair’s natural oils and scratch against your hair strands.
A pillowcase made of silk or satin can help protect your hair’s structure.
As a bonus, it might keep your head cooler and help prevent your scalp from getting oily. This could cut back on the need for washing.
2. Put your hair in a ‘pineapple’
You can protect your hair while you sleep by using a satin or cotton scrunchie (not a hair elastic) to tie your hair up at the crown of your head.
Simply gather your hair at the top of your head and tie the scrunchie around it one time, being careful not to pull too hard or make the pineapple too tight.
You can also combine this method with a silk scarf or hair bonnet, as shown in this YouTube video from Joy Before Her.
3. Do twists or braids
The more secure your hair is, the less hair strands are rubbing up against other follicles or against your bedding.
Simple twists using bobby pins or small elastics, as well as well-secured braids can stabilize the structure of your curls through the night.
4. Use a silk or satin bonnet or headscarf
A bonnet or headscarf can do double duty protecting your hair.
Not only do these hair accessories keep your hair from rubbing against your bedding and getting frizzy, they also keep your hair secure while you sleep, protecting your curls’ shape.
5. Try a spritz or two of product
A leave-in conditioner that adds keratin to your hair follicle can infuse your hair with shine and bounce.
Spray-on conditioners may also help strengthen hair strands that have been damaged by hair dye and heat styling, and may make your hair softer and easier to style in the morning.
If you don’t naturally have curly hair, you can take a shortcut to bouncy, beautiful curls while you sleep by using some tried and true hairstyling hacks.
Even if you do have curly hair, these methods can save you time and give you fuller curls that are structured and ready to go from the moment you wake up.
The classic hair roller technique has come a long way in recent years.
Traditional plastic or metal curlers can be used on your head while you sleep, but may feel uncomfortable as they push into your skin.
There are softer, “sleep-in” curler alternatives, like flex-rods, that you can purchase which might be more comfortable.
- To use curlers, you simply separate your hair into sections and roll your hair around the curler, starting at your ends and moving upward to the crown of your head.
- Clip the curlers at the top of your head and sleep with a bonnet over the curlers for best results.
- You can also use most curlers on wet hair.
Wet hair in braids
If you don’t mind sleeping with wet hair, you might find this method to be the most comfortable.
- After you wash your hair as you normally would, divide your hair and create one braid, pigtails, or three braids.
- A French braid works if you want the curls to start high on the crown of your head. The more braids you create, the more waves you’ll have.
- Spritz with some leave-in conditioning product before you lay down for the night.
- In the morning, carefully take out the braids.
- Brush out your hair if you want a more subtle look.
“Plopping” is another way you can fall asleep with wet hair and wake up with curls.
- When your hair is freshly washed, infuse it with curl gel, an alcohol-free mousse, or another curl-shaping product of your choice.
- Flip your wet hair forward onto a flat, cotton T-shirt. All of your hair should be centered on the shirt.
- Next, fold the flap of fabric behind your neck over your head and secure the arms of the shirt in a knot.
- You can sleep with your hair secured in the shirt overnight and wake up with beautiful, full curls.
Take a look at this YouTube video from The Glam Belle to see how it’s done.
Taking care of curly hair does take a little strategic thinking. Luckily, you can get your curls shiny, healthy, and natural looking all while you sleep.
Simple switch ups to your nightly routine — such as sleeping on your side and changing to a satin pillowcase — can have a big impact on your hair’s health and appearance.